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Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 3, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0061479632 ISBN-10: 0061479632 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061479632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061479632
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this accessible and very sensible analysis, Collier (The Bottom Billion) argues that the spread of democracy after the end of the Cold War has not actually made the world a safer place, as the West has promoted the wrong features of democracy: the façade rather than the essential infrastructure. The author hypothesizes that an insistence on elections without a system of checks and balances has led to widespread corruption, nations mired in ethnic politics and economic underperformance. Collier examines the effect of civil wars, coups and rebellions on burgeoning democracies, founding all arguments on methodology and data sets that provide a hard, quantitative view of political violence. While many of his observations are insightful and occasionally prescient, his analysis weakens when it strays from the data and enters more theoretical territory. However, the author maintains an approachable style and reaches beyond jargon to provide a highly readable account of the complex realities facing the developing world. Collier's suggestions are pragmatic, and although they may incense ideologues, most readers will connect with this common sense approach matched with obvious expertise. (Feb.)
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"Very important ideas based on extremely thorough empirical research...put him in the same camp as real heavyweights such as the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz" -- Misha Glenny Guardian "Collier comes up with very concrete proposals and some ingenious solutions" The Times "Collier knows Africa intimately... It is hard to be unmoved by his anger about the world's blindness to realities, and his passion to do things better" -- Max Hastings Sunday Times "With its verve, wit and lateral thinking, this is a book that changes its readers' horizons" Observer "It is always a pleasure to discover Paul Collier's latest thoughts...always illuminating and grounded in rigorous social science...it's gripping stuff" -- Allister Heath Literary Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most interesting is Collier's "feasibility hypothesis" of civil war.
Benjamin Linkow
Overall, while I found Collier solutions very weak, his statistical crunching and subsequent analysis are extremely useful and provocative.
This book is so challenging about our work in unstable environments.
H. F. Green

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By D. Green on June 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
War, Guns and Votes builds on the strongest section of Collier's best selling `Bottom Billion' - his investigation of the `conflict trap' that afflicts a disproportionate number of the poorest counties, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (Collier's real passion). The book is in equal measure hugely stimulating and deeply exasperating. Stimulating because he is an original thinker and a brilliant communicator, as well as a policy entrepreneur who always tries to get back to the `so what' on any issue. He defies easy left/right pigeon-holing - he is a free trader, yet admires Julius Nyerere (if not his economic policies) and is a fan of UN peacekeeping.

Frustrating because of his eccentric attitude to evidence: he looks for statistical relationships, runs dozens of cross country regressions, establishes correlations between different variables (income, conflict, geography etc) and plausible directions of causation, but then blithely ignores other disciplines or qualititative research methods and as he freely admits, `guesses' about the explanations for them. You could sum up his method as `correlate, then speculate'. To be fair, he may be doing all sorts of reading in other disciplines and just keeping it to himself, but the absence of footnotes makes it impossible to say.

So what's his basic argument? That the international community has got overly obsessed with elections, which can actually set back the process of post-conflict reconstruction (he wanted to call the book 'Democracy in Dangerous Places', but for some reason the publishers vetoed it), and that a new approach to international intervention is required to drag bottom billion countries, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, out of their various traps (poverty, conflict, commodity dependence etc).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charles A. Wagoner on November 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's an excerpt from an article I wrote comparing Collier's book with one by Fareed Zakaria ('The Future of Freedom'):

Collier's main argument in his book is that a successful transition to democracy requires the supply of two basic public goods--security and accountability--and that such should be supplied internationally since most developing countries lack adequate internal checks and balances and security mechanisms that guarantee the provision of both. Furthermore, security and accountability can mitigate the three factors listed above that undermine democracy: lack of economic growth, large ethnic diversity, and the abundance of natural resources as a hindrance to accountability.

Now for the first public good, security. When a Third World dictator announces that he wants to transition his country to democracy, the usual carrot used by the international community is that of aid. However, as Collier demonstrates, the increase in aid often increases violence as aid money leaks into funding armies, and the embezzlement of aid along ethnic lines foments jealousy and conflict. (Collier 2009, 121-123) Rather, he asserts that a more effective carrot is a security guarantee, specifically against coups, on the basis of clean elections. "Key members of the international community [should] make a common commitment that should a government that has committed itself to some international standard of elections be ousted by a coup d'état, they would ensure that the government was reinstated, by military means if necessary." (Collier 2009, 204) The main objection to this idea, especially by non-interventionists, is that security guarantees obligate countries to go to war when it is not clearly in its interest to do so--no "clear and present danger," as it were.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Gibbs TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
The political violence inherent in the societies of the poorest countries in the world should be harnessed as a force for good, according to this book. The book draws numerous inferences about democracy, wars and violence from a broad range of statistical research to explain why democracy is dangerous for the poorest countries; incumbent governments prefer vote-rigging whereas oppositions prefer intimidation; readily available cheap guns make wars more likely; 11% of development aid leaks into military spending; and coups almost always have bad outcomes.

These inferences have an air of credibility, even if the book does not include footnotes referencing the data from which they are derived, but then the author goes on to make three surprising proposals. Firstly, countries should be encouraged to submit to an international standard for conducting elections; if they comply with the standard, the international community provides security against coups, but if they do not comply the international community declares that it will not contest a coup, thereby essentially encouraging the country's military to take things into their own hands. Secondly, donors should enforce probity in public spending using governance conditionalities. And thirdly, to discourage military spending, donors should reduce their aid in proportion to increases in a country's military spending.

Like so many other writers on poverty and the plight of the world's poor, the author is in my view reasonably accurate with his diagnoses of the problems but unrealistic with his proposed solutions. The book is well written and interesting, but I am not convinced that the author's political and sociological observations are as well grounded as his statistical skills.
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More About the Author

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University and a former director of Development Research at the World Bank. In addition to the award-winning The Bottom Billion, he is the author of Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places.